The Other Moderns: Sydney’s Forgotten European Design Legacy

Reviewed By  Ian Banks       July 17, 2018


Author  edited by Rebecca Hawcroft

Distributor:      New South Books
ISBN:                 9781742235561
Publisher:         New South Publications
Release Date:   September 2017  


The architecture of Australia has undergone significant change since white settlement, where with the people came their architectural style from the homeland. This remained as the status quo until post war immigration commenced in Australia during the period of 1930 to the modern day.

Perhaps the most significant impact on architecture and design came from Europeans fleeing the rapid advancing of the Hitler years and then in the restructuring of the world in the post-World War II years.

Many that settled in Australia came with backgrounds in Art, architecture, design and craftsmanship, bringing with them a change of style and flamboyance. Many of these artisans remained little known for their work, their hopes, their dreams and their legacy as they settled into a very strange and foreign land.

Hotel Hotel in Canberra was created in 2013 to act as a showcase for the exploration of new and old ideas in the arts and is now, in 2018 a Hotel in Canberra created from a collaboration of ideas and designs and in doing so, has also acted and still does act as a showcase for the many skilled and talented immigrants who went on to make Australia their homes.

European Modernism was a combination of industrial functionality, social change, health reforms with changes in city planning and townscapes, that comes with its own political history, which saw architects of the day designing buildings that were functional, had a sparsity of style and yet an uncompromising elegance.

Along with the building styles came the range of furniture to compliment this new vision for the future that made its way to Australia, presenting a new aspect to a country ready for change.  In The New Moderns many of these pioneers are remembered, with their work and backstory presented as a reminder that immigration brings with it many facets of change which adds to the comprehensive history of national identity.

Ten writers have each contributed a comprehensive essay on one of the many people who came and made a significant contribution to modern Australia; artisans such as Hugo Stossel, a Viennese trained Architect whom designed many of the houses constructed through the North Shore of Sydney during the 1940’s, Paul Kafka well known for his mid-century style of cabinet making. Talented photographer Margaret Michaelis arrived in Australia in 1939 just as the Second World War broke out. With her she bought a massive amount of knowledge about prominent European photography studios and great skill in portraiture, architectural photography and a strong belief of photography in contemporary society.

Each of these people documented in the collection are just a few of the many who came, contributed and made change become an accepted norm. In compiling this work Rebecca Hawcroft has presented a slice of the people, largely unknown, who not only set the style but created the style that has continued on, and in many cases set the benchmark for design in Australia which holds firm in today’s world.

The Other Moderns is a richly illustrated and extensively well researched book which any budding designer, architect or commercial photographer should read and add to their collection of must have  reference books.